Iowa House justice systems budget adds troopers, not prison guards

Bill adds increase of $6.6 million compared to the current budget

The Iowa House Tuesday approved a $544 million justice systems budget that includes $5 million for 33 more Iowa State Patrol troopers 52-47.

House File 2450 spends $554 million from the general fund for fiscal 2015 to the departments of Justice, Corrections, Inspections and Appeals, Public Defense, Human Rights, Public Safety, and Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, Board of Parole, and Civil Rights Commission. It also appropriates $14 million from other funds.

That’s an increase of $6.6 million compared to the current budget. Among the increases are $219,000 for Legal Services Poverty Grants, $216,000 to fully fund the reception center at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women at Mitchellville, $317,000 increase to replace expired federal funds for Drug Courts in the First and Sixth Community-based Corrections District departments, $948,000 increase to supervise the increasing number of sex offenders on special sentences under community supervision in all eight of the CBC District Departments, $176,000 increase to comply with requirements of the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, $327,000 and two FTE positions for the Division of Criminal Investigation Crime Lab to implement the Convicted Offender DNA Program that takes effect July 1.

A major policy change included in the budget was to require the attorney general to file a report with the chairpersons and ranking members of the Justice System Appropriations Subcommittee and the Legislative Services Agency regarding receipts from settlements, judgments, and forfeitures. It also requires the attorney general to provide documentation to the Executive Council before accepting any settlement from a legal proceeding related to environmental crimes, antitrust, and fraud. The council must approve any such settlement before the attorney general accepts the settlement.

Not included in the justice systems budget was a proposal for a 24/7 sobriety program based on a successful model implemented in South Dakota.

Rep. Dave Dawson, D-Sioux City, proposed the pilot to allow courts and law enforcement to monitor defendants who must abstain from drugs and alcohol as a condition of pretrial release.

Defendants – at their own expense – could use twice-daily breath testing or transdermal devices for those who cannot present themselves for testing, drug patches and urine analysis for drugs, he said.

Some Iowa sheriffs and court systems are moving ahead with 24/7 sobriety monitoring. Participants are defendants charged or convicted of operating while intoxicated, second offense or greater, or other offenses that have a link to drug or alcohol abuse, Dawson said.

However, sheriffs and court system personnel have indicated to Dawson they would feel more comfortable if there was language in the state code regarding the monitoring.

Research on the South Dakota system, which was introduced in 2005, has found it to be effective in reducing repeat offenses, reducing crime and deterring use of illegal drugs, Dawson said

His amendment was ruled not germane. However, floor manager Rep. Gary Worthan, R-Storm Lake, said the proposal has merit and he thinks the Legislature will look at it next session. The amendment was ruled not germane, however, Worthan said it’s likely lawmakers will look at it next year.

The House rejected 47-51 an amendment by Rep. Todd Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids, for $2 million for 33 additional correctional officers to address chronic overcrowding and understaffing, he said.

Worthan resisted the amendment because Taylor did not identify where he would find the $2 million, because it would take $8 million to reach the staffing level Taylor suggested and would exceed the budget targets agreed to by the Senate.

On a 96-2 vote, the House also approved a $42.6 million budget for 560 FTE positions and programs for the Department of Cultural Affairs, Iowa Economic Development Authority, Iowa Finance Authority, Public Employment Relations Board and Iowa Workforce Development. That’s an increase of $1.2 million and a decrease of 16 positions. HF 2460 also appropriates a total of $33.6 million from other funds.

The House rejected amendments that would have added funding for child labor and wage theft investigators.

By a 98-0 vote, the House approved an amendment from House Minority Leader Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, to require state agencies, as a condition of receiving an appropriation, to give first preference to buying Iowa products. Second preference shall be given to American-made products or products produced from a business based in the United States.

The House also:

• voted 95-4 to extend the beginning farmer tax credit from five years to 10.

• approved HF 2459 97-1 to increase the tax credit for volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel, and make reserve peace officers eligible for the credit.

• voted 99-0 SF 2283 to adopt a Kansas model for the Treasurer’s Office to use the Great Iowa Treasurer Hunt to find the owners of U.S. savings bonds presumed to be abandoned at least three years after maturity. The treasurer estimates there are more than $500,000 in abandoned bonds in Iowa, which his office can claim if the owners are not located.